What is the Difference Between Escorting and Prostitution?
For many people, there is little difference between an escort and a prostitute. They use the words interchangeably. However, under California criminal law, there is a distinct difference that makes one act legal, and the other act illegal.
What is an Escort?
An escort is someone who is paid to spend time with you. The person may accompany you to dinner, entertainment venues, business affairs, or simply spend time talking to you. They are paid for their time in socializing with you.
Escorts are legal in California. However, they must have a valid license, and they are prohibited from performing sexual services. Providing escort services without a license is a crime in most cities and counties.
What is a Prostitute?
A prostitute is someone who offers sexual services in return for money or other forms of consideration. California Penal Code §647(b) PC makes prostitution a crime within the state. Prostitution falls under the umbrella of sex crimes in California.
In addition to being arrested for engaging in sexual acts for money or other consideration, you can also be charged with a crime if you agree to engage in the act of prostitution or solicit another person to engage in the act of prostitution. Therefore, both the prostitute and the person who is engaging in sex with the prostitute can be charged with a sex crime.
Also, a person who arranges sexual encounters between a prostitute and another person can be charged with a crime. These individuals are often referred to as “pimps” or “madams.”
What Does the State Need to Prove?
There are two essential elements that the state must prove for a prostitution conviction – sexual acts and compensation.
Sexual acts are broadly defined to include sexual intercourse, sexual touching, anal sex, and oral sex. You can be charged with prostitution for committing lewd sexual acts. Lewd sexual acts include touching the buttocks, genitals, or female breasts of either participant for sexual gratification or arousal.
Compensation is also broadly defined. It can include money, but it also includes anything of value. Therefore, a person could be charged with prostitution for accepting or paying for sexual acts with drugs, property, promises not to arrest the person, valuable information, or anything else of value to you or another person.
How Can I Avoid a Conviction for Prostitution?
Never agree to engage in sexual acts for compensation. If you hire an escort, do not engage in any acts of a sexual nature. The relationship should be professional.
If the police arrest you for prostitution, solicitation, or a related offense, do not talk to the police or make a statement until you speak with a criminal defense lawyer. You have the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel.
You also have the right to defend yourself. An attorney reviews the facts and circumstances to determine the potential legal defenses that apply in your case.
Examples of defenses to a prostitution charge include:
- There was no compensation exchanged between you and the other person
- You and the other party had no agreement to engage in sexual acts
- The police officers used illegal means to entrap you
- There is insufficient evidence to prove the legal elements of the crime
- You are the victim of mistaken identity or false allegations
A vigorous defense attacking the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case can help you avoid the penalties and consequences of a prostitution conviction.
What Are the Penalties for a Prostitution Charge?
Most prostitution charges are misdemeanors. However, that does not mean you should take a prostitution charge lightly.
A conviction for prostitution or a related crime results in a criminal record, which could affect future sentences for other crimes. It could also impact your social life, family, and career.
A first-time prostitution conviction could result in up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalty increases for a second conviction of prostitution. You serve a minimum of 45 days in jail, with the possibility of up to six months of jail time and a $1,000 fine.
Third and subsequent prostitution convictions carry a minimum jail sentence of 90 days, in addition to the penalties for a first-time offense. Your sentence could be more severe if there are aggravating circumstances involved, such as engaging in prostitution near a school.
Before pleading guilty to prostitution or any other sex crime, it is wise to seek legal counsel. The prosecutor is only interested in obtaining a guilty verdict, even if you might have a valid defense to the charges. Having someone to advocate for you could make the difference between a guilty and not guilty verdict.